September 27, 2013 Updated Jun 8, 2010 at 7:35 AM EDT

September 27, 2013 Updated Jun 8, 2010 at 7:35 AM EDT

Western New York's elementary schools have seen a changing of the guard in
Business First's annual ratings.

Southern Tier Catholic School has emerged as the new leader in this
category, which spans the years from kindergarten through fourth grade. The
Olean school replaces Amherst's Smallwood Drive School, which was the
top-rated elementary school the past three years.

Full details will be available in Business First's 2010-2011 Guide to
Western New York Schools, which hits newsstands on Friday. Highlights are
also available at the newspaper's website: buffalo.bizjournals.com.

Southern Tier Catholic is tiny, with only 150 students from pre-kindergarten
through eighth grade. But it has been rapidly improving in Business First's
academic rankings, climbing from 31st place in 2007 to 15th, fourth and
first in the three subsequent years.

"We don't have a lot in terms of resources," says Daniel McCarthy, the
principal of Southern Tier Catholic. "But we've got the ability to go
one-on-one with our students, and we don't accept 'I can't do it' from kids.
We make sure that they all know that they can do it."

Southern Tier Catholic is the first school from outside of Erie County to
rank No. 1 in any category since Business First launched its rankings in
1992. More than half of its fourth graders achieved superior scores on the
statewide tests in both English and math last year, a distinction that no
other elementary school in Western New York can claim.

"The main reason we're achieving well is that we have dedicated teachers,
and they're really challenging our students," says McCarthy. "They will not
accept mediocrity from our kids, and I'm proud of that."

Business First graded 287 elementary schools, based on four years of test
data from the New York State Education Department. The rankings cover every
school that participates in the statewide testing program for fourth

Second place belongs to Smallwood Drive School, a public school that has
been a fixture at the top of the standings. It made its initial visit to the
No. 1 position in 2005 -- back when Business First issued separate rankings
of public and private schools -- and then spent the years from 2007 through
2009 atop the combined list.

"Smallwood has a legacy of strong parental support," says Daniel Lewis, who
is completing his first year as the school's principal. "We have a very
strong parent-school partnership and very high expectations."

Public schools occupy the next three positions in the rankings. Third
through fifth, respectively, are Maple East Elementary School of
Williamsville, Charlotte Avenue Elementary School of Hamburg, and Ledgeview
Elementary School of Clarence.

Twenty-one of the top 25 elementary schools are located within Erie County.
Three of the four exceptions are private schools -- Southern Tier Catholic
and a pair from the Niagara-Wheatfield district, No. 15 St. John Lutheran
School and No. 25 St. Peter's Lutheran School. The only public school from
an outlying county to make the top 25 is No. 24 Prospect Elementary School
of Attica.

"It's a testament to a very dedicated teaching staff," says Kelly Bissell,
Prospect's principal. "Our kindergarten teachers know what we have to
emphasize at that level, and so on. It's a whole school effort."

Business First goes one step beyond its overall academic rankings by
calculating separate scores for the core subjects of English and
mathematics, based on its analysis of four years of test data in a given

Christian Central Academy of Williamsville is the top-rated elementary
school in English, followed by Southern Tier Catholic and Smallwood. First
place in the math rankings belongs to Southern Tier Catholic, with Maple
East and Ledgeview as the runners-up.

Forty-four schools are recipients of subject awards, which are given to the
top 10 percent of all Western New York elementary schools in English or
math. Thirty of these winners hold a single award, while 14 have reached the
elite level in both subjects.

Among the double honorees is Buffalo's Tapestry Charter School. It's 14th in
the overall standings, easily the best performance by any of the 12 charter
schools included in the rankings.

Tapestry began as an elementary school, but has grown to encompass every
grade level through high school. Christina Lesh, the principal of Tapestry's
lower school (kindergarten through eighth grade), says the expansion has
improved instruction even for the youngest students.

"It has helped us to focus our vision to a student's full development," she
says. "We have to think of the transition to middle school, then to high
school, then to college. It has helped us to be more focused and more
successful at every level."

Private schools that don't take part in the statewide testing program are
not included in Business First's rankings, since their performances can't be
measured against standardized benchmarks. Two of the better-known schools
that don't participate are Elmwood Franklin School and Park School of

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1. Southern Tier Catholic School (Olean)
2. Smallwood Drive School (Amherst)
3. Maple East ES (Williamsville)
4. Charlotte Avenue ES (Hamburg)
5. Ledgeview ES (Clarence)
6. Immaculate Conception School (East Aurora)
7. South Davis ES (Orchard Park)
8. Maple West ES (Williamsville)
9. Nardin Academy ES (Buffalo)
10. Christian Central Academy (Williamsville)
11. Christ the King School (Amherst)
12. St. Gregory the Great School (Williamsville)
13. Country Parkway ES (Williamsville)
14. Tapestry CS (Buffalo)
15. St. John Lutheran School (Niagara-Wheatfield)
16. Eggert Road ES (Orchard Park)
17. St. Stephen School (Grand Island)
18. Harris Hill ES (Clarence)
19. St. Bernadette School (Orchard Park)
20. Ellicott Road ES (Orchard Park)
21. Sheridan Hill ES (Clarence)
22. Forest ES (Williamsville)
23. Clarence Center ES (Clarence)
24. Prospect ES (Attica)
25. St. Peter's Lutheran School (Niagara-Wheatfield)
26. Dodge ES (Williamsville)
27. Charles A. Lindbergh ES (Kenmore-Tonawanda)
28. Errick Road ES (Niagara-Wheatfield)
29. Armor ES (Hamburg)
30. Nativity of Our Lord School (Orchard Park)
31. Parkdale ES (East Aurora)
32. St. Peter School (Lewiston-Porter)
33. Mullen ES (Tonawanda)
34. Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament School (Lancaster)
35. Big Tree ES (Frontier)
36. Geraldine J. Mann School (Niagara Falls)
37. Huth Road School (Grand Island)
38. Alden IS (Alden)
39. Our Lady of Pompeii School (Lancaster)
40. St. Mary's School (Williamsville)
41. Ellicottville ES (Ellicottville)
42. Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary School (Iroquois)
43. St. Mark's School (Buffalo)
44. Cayuga Heights ES (Depew)
45. P.S. 64 Frederick Law Olmsted (Buffalo)
46. Maplemere ES (Sweet Home)
47. East ES (West Seneca)
48. Heim ES (Williamsville)
49. St. John Vianney School (Orchard Park)
50. Kaegebein School (Grand Island)
51. Clinton ES (West Seneca)
52. Pembroke IS (Pembroke)
53. West ES (West Seneca)
54. Sherman ES (Sherman)
55. North Tonawanda Catholic School (North Tonawanda)
56. Pinehurst ES (Frontier)
57. St. Mary's ES (Lancaster)
58. Fletcher ES (Tonawanda)
59. Alfred-Almond ES (Alfred-Almond)
60. Immaculate Conception School (Wellsville)
61. John T. Waugh ES (Evans-Brant)
62. St. Vincent DePaul School (Iroquois)
63. Willow Ridge ES (Sweet Home)
64. William Street School (Lancaster)
65. St. Peter & Paul School (Williamsville)
66. Lyndonville ES (Lyndonville)
67. Brant ES (Evans-Brant)
68. Starpoint IS (Starpoint)
69. Southwestern ES (Southwestern)
70. Charles A. Upson ES (Lockport)
71. DeWitt Clinton ES (Lockport)
72. Queen of Heaven School (West Seneca)
73. Thomas Marks ES (Wilson)
74. Thomas A. Edison ES (Kenmore-Tonawanda)
75. Stella Niagara Education Park (Lewiston-Porter)
76. Windermere Boulevard School (Amherst)
77. Southtowns Catholic School (Frontier)
78. Northwood ES (West Seneca)
79. George Southard ES (Lockport)
80. Sheldon ES (Attica)
81. Kadimah School of Buffalo (Amherst)
82. Pratt ES (Barker)
83. Clymer Central School (Clymer)
84. Northern Chautauqua Catholic School (Dunkirk)
85. St. Christopher's School (Sweet Home)
86. Winchester ES (West Seneca)
87. Windom ES (Orchard Park)
88. Ben Franklin ES (Kenmore-Tonawanda)
89. Ohio School (North Tonawanda)
90. Allendale ES (West Seneca)
91. Newfane IS (Newfane)
92. Alexander ES (Alexander)
93. Union Pleasant ES (Hamburg)
94. Union East ES (Cheektowaga)
95. Maryvale IS (Cheektowaga-Maryvale)
96. St. Peter & Paul School (Hamburg)
97. Iroquois IS (Iroquois)
98. Washington Hunt School (Lockport)
99. St. Benedict's School (Amherst)
100. St. John the Baptist School (Alden)

ABBREVIATIONS: CS-Charter School, EMS-Elementary-Middle School,
ES-Elementary School, HS-High School, IS-Intermediate School, JHS-Junior
High School, JSHS-Junior-Senior High School, MHS-Middle-High School,
MS-Middle School, PS-Primary School, SHS-Senior High School, VHS-Vocational
High School.